Business partners (and ex couple) Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams open their first Dallas boutique, where gay rights are as important as creature comforts

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor [email protected]

Mitchell Gold and business partner Bob Williams
HAVE A SEAT | Mitchell Gold, left, and business partner Bob Williams, just opened their 16th signature showroom on McKinney Avenue, facing page, featuring their S&M (soft and modern) styling. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

As Mitchell Gold was checking out of his hotel suite, the front desk asked him how his stay was. Great he, said — except for the sofa. “Who designed that?” he asked. “You should force them to sit on it.”

Coming from someone else, the remark may sound like quibbling. But Gold, with his business partner Bob Williams, has made a career out of designing furniture that doesn’t just look good, it feels good.

“Ours is great furniture for sitting on naked,” he offers.

Williams might put it another way, but they both agree that the watchwords underpinning the Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams Home collection (which just opened its 16th signature showroom on McKinney Avenue) are warmth and comfort. And that’s been the case for decades.

Both men like to say their style is not revolutionary, but evolutionary. “We still do slip covers, but they have become more tailored,” Williams notes. Their aesthetic is casually elegant and — to some, a curse word in interior design — livable. Some people won’t allow their pets anywhere near high-end items like these; in the McKinney Avenue store, French bulldog Baker has the run of the place.

“It’s clean and stylish, not frumpy,” Williams says. “It’s relaxed design. We call it S&M — soft and modern.”

“We spend an enormous amount of time seeing to it no product gets passed” without meeting comfort standards. Consider it quality control through tush testing. “Our philosophy is about not being intimidating.”

“We all grow up around furniture but people are so intimidated by it,” echoes Williams.

The two are very much in synch about their goals. Williams and Gold became a creative team almost as soon as they began dating 22 years ago. Gold was working a lot with JC Penney at the time, and they considered opening up a business in Dallas. Then Gold was transferred, eventually ending up in Hickory, N.C. They began designing household goods 20 years ago, and have remained there ever since.

The personal relationship faltered almost a decade ago — Gold married his partner Tim in Iowa earlier this summer — but the professional pairing has blossomed.
“I do all the heaving lifting,” Williams jokes; he’s actually deeply involved in the design aspects of the business. “It wasn’t what I went to school for” — he majored in graphic design — “but I used many of the skills.”

Williams describes the union as a Ying and Yang symbiosis: “He’s more disciplined than I am. But if someone goes off target, then the other’s there to pull him in. If you’re both on the same page, you’ve really got something.”

They are equally united when it comes to politics. Like Kenneth Cole, whose advertising patently supports progressive issues, they don’t shy away from injecting their pro-gay opinions into the marketplace. Gold especially is fervent about grassroots activism, especially his Faith in America program, which seeks to educate people about discrimination rooted in religion.

“The Prop 8 people were trying to create an environment that said straight people were superior to gay,” Gold continues, his irritation rising. “Their ‘expert’ was saying straights made better parents. That’s based on religion-based bigotry.”

Gold knows not everyone will agree with his politics, but he comfortable in his outspokenness.

“It’s something people avoided, “Gold says. “Even major advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign wouldn’t talk about it because they were afraid of a backlash. I’m not stupid. But the time is right now.”

That sounds like someone you’d wanna buy a chair from.

Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams Home, 4519 McKinney Ave.  Mondays–Saturdays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sundays, noon–5 pm. 214-753-8700.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.